Facebook is rolling out a new feature to its mobile app called Nearby Friends that will track friends and alert each other when they are close to each one another. This feature is meant to bring friends closer together in person, not just on the app and website.
The feature is completely optional and Facebook has taken measures to ensure that users are able to still keep themselves off the grid when they choose to. Users who do opt in have plenty of options of when they allow their location to be shared. Users can turn it off and back on at will or they can set a time slot for when certain features will be on.
When the feature is on, users will be able to see where their friends are in real time. The feature will alert the user when a friend is at a nearby location. Facebook hopes that users will then contact that friend and meet up or offer opinions on that nearby location.
The Nearby Friends feature will also track where the user has been to allow that data to viewed by friends and allow users to see when friends are at a location that they have already visited. The user can then contact that friend and offer suggestions or ask to join them.
Facebook is sure to receive messages of concern over friends tracking other nearby friends. Facebook is doing its best to offer enough security to ease worry about tracking and what it can entail. Nearby Friends is meant as a way to stay social and is trying hard to give users enough options to feel safe.
The feature does not share the user’s exact location, but rather an approximate location. When viewing which friends are nearby, the user will only see a city and the distance between them. A user can choose to Check-In to a precise location to share with other friends and set a time that they will be at that location.
The feature is used in a way so that both friends can see each other when it is turned on. There will not be an instance when only the user location is viewed. Both users have to have the feature tuned on and both can see the location of each other. This is meant to stop surprise visits from friends.
Nearby Friends will only allow friends to track users that the user chooses. A user can choose to allow all of their friends to see their location or just one friend. Users are able to block those that they wish not to share their location with. This will help those who may have friends that they know only online or maybe do not feel too comfortable with.
All history can be erased from previously tracked locations. If a location of a user has been tracked, the user can choose to delete that location so that friends cannot see that they have been there before. This feature is available to keep friends from tracking routes the user may have taken.
Nearby Friends is not turned on by default and requires a few screens before Facebook starts tracking users. Those who turn on the feature will be able to see their friends and hopefully stop looking at their friend’s profile and start looking at them in person. Facebook is trying to be a true social experience rather than a just a website that users share their experiences socially.
by Raul Hernandez